The Sexy Vegan Happy Hour at Home (review & recipes!)
Today is a very good day. First off, today was my last day of teaching and I am officially on summer break! Hallelujah! Secondly, I’m super excited to be sharing a few recipes from the brand new cookbook The Sexy Vegan Happy Hour at Home: Small Plates, Big Flavors, and Potent Cocktails. For those of you who are not familiar with The Sexy Vegan, aka Brian Patton, you are in for a real treat. Brian Patton is a really fun guy who has a hilarious personality and a passion for cooking delicious vegan food. Or, as he likes to say, extraordinary food from an ordinary dude!
I love the background for this cookbook. When Brian began dating his soon-to-be wife, he offered to entertain her with Friday night Happy Hours at her apartment or his. It didn’t take long before their friends started begging for invitations after hearing about the amazing appetizers and cocktails. Overtime, Brian created so many recipes that he decided to put them all in one handy-dandy cookbook, and thus the The Sexy Vegan Happy Hour at Home was born!
The thing I really love and appreciate about this cookbook is that is so much fun! The book is divided into 20 different menus each with 3 or 4 recipes. His creativity as a chef really shines through with super fun themed menus like Quesome Mucho, Satay-Day Night Fever, Be Still My Hearts of Palm, and Holy Stromboli. Honestly, now that I have this cookbook, I’ll never have to stress or worry about entertaining again! The recipes in each menu compliment each other and make for a perfect evening with friends and family.
It was so hard deciding what recipe I wanted to try first! But after long deliberation, I decided to try out some of the recipes from the Polenta Party menu! Italian sausages and peppers with creamy polenta?! Yes please! Both of these recipes were a huge hit and paired perfectly with a big glass of wine. And since today was my last day of teaching before summer break, my husband celebrated by making a Punchy Pineapple Cocktail!
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons vegan margarine*
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove, grated
pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
*I left the margarine out and it still tasted delicious and extremely creamy!
In a medium pot, bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt and begin whisking the water in a circular motion.
Slowly pour the cornmeal into the boiling water in a steady stream, constantly whisking to prevent lumps. Whisk for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the polenta begins to thicken. Reduce the heat to low, and whisk in the vegan margarine, nutritional yeast, and garlic. Simmer, stirring often, for 25 minutes. The finished product should be thick, yet pourable. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, pour the hot polenta into a wide plate with high edges or a large oval serving bowl. I used a Pyrex cake pan and it worked perfectly. Let the polenta set for a few minutes before slicing and serving. Top with Italian sausages and peppers (recipes below) and enjoy!
Italian Sausages and Peppers
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil*
Three 3-ounce store-bought vegan sausages or 3 Pretend Italian Sausages (recipe follows), sliced on the bias
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper
1 cup red wine
2 cups marinara sauce
*I omitted the olive oil and used high-heat cooking spray instead
To brown the sausages, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place the sausages in the pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until browned on one side, then flip and repeat.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, toss the bell pepper and onion with the oregano, basil, the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a small baking dish, pour in the wine, and cover. Braise in the oven for 20 minutes, then uncover and cook for 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the marinara, and top with the sausages. Cover and cook for 15 more minutes, or until it’s all warmed through.
Pretend Italian Sausages
1/2 pound russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 cup vital wheat gluten*
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds**
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of ground sage**
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds**
1 tablespoon chickpea flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup low-sodium tamari
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup (1 15-ounce can) drained and rinsed canned white beans
*A note to my Malaysian friends: I have NOT been able to find vital wheat gluten here in Penang. I brought a ton back with me from the UK.
**Another note to my Malaysian friends, I was not able to find these spices…but don’t worry, they still tasted amazing anyways!
In a small pot, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chunks easily fall apart when you put a fork through them. Drain the potatoes well and while they’re still hot, gently mash with a fork until there are no chunks left, or pass through a potato ricer. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, bouillon powder, pepper, celery seeds, thyme, sage, chile flakes, fennel seeds, and chickpea flour.
In a food processor or blender, puree the tamari, water, onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and beans. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, add them and the bean mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mash it all together with your hands to form a soft dough, making sure there are no dry parts remaining.
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before using. You can also wrap it in plastic and store it in the refrigerator for later use. It will last for 5 days.
Form the dough into a loaf-like shape and cut it in half. Then cut those halves in half. Finally, cut the halves of the halves into five- sixteenths…just kidding, cut them in half. Now you’ll have 8 portions. Roll them into cigar-like shapes, 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Loosely roll each portion in foil and twist the ends of the foil to seal the packets. Remember to leave some room for expansion. Using a steamer basket, steam for 1 hour. Now they’re ready to be browned or grilled in a pan.
If you don’t use all 8 sausages right away, store the remaining ones in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to a month.